U.K. appeals court puts Mastercard back in class-action crosshairs

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Two months after Mastercard lawyers urged an English appeals court to follow the lead of antitrust judges that had tossed out a multi-billion pound class action lawsuit from U.K. consumers over credit card charges, that appeals court has ruled against the credit card giant.

Former financial ombudsman Walter Merricks brought the 14 billion pound ($18 billion U.S.) damages claim against Mastercard on behalf of 46.2 million U.K. consumers in July of 2016, alleging Mastercard had violated competition laws established by the European Commission in 2007.

Those violations led to consumers paying higher prices on purchases from businesses that accepted Mastercard transactions, Merricks claimed.

A U.K. law firm representing Merricks filed its appeal in August of 2017. That appeal came a month after the Competition Appeal Tribunal had tossed out the case.

On Tuesday, the appeals court's senior judges essentially ruled that the Competition Appeal Tribunal had applied the wrong legal test in initially tossing out Merricks' lawsuit, U.K. news organizations reported. They cited the CAT as demanding too much information about how the fees Mastercard charged on transactions were alleged to have been passed onto consumers, the reports said.

The claim now goes back to the CAT, which will determine whether to allow the case to proceed.

"It is nearly 12 years since Mastercard was clearly told that they had broken the law by imposing excessive card transaction charges, damaging consumers over a prolonged period," Merricks said in a statement after the ruling.

Merricks insists it is time for Mastercard to apologize and agree to pay British consumers "the compensation they owe."

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